I don't know if Showtime's brilliant show "Kidding" developed before or after Jim Carrey was cast. What I do know is that the character he plays, Jeff Pickles, is a very poignant followup to what looks like, from the outside, as Carrey jettisoning his career. Take this interview from September 2017, in which he gleefully expounds on his existential ennui to a panicked E! announcer:
There was a narrative surrounding Carrey at the time. This happened two years after his ex-girlfriend committed suicide in 2015. Her family was blaming him for it, trying to sue him. It was in the midst of a popular belief that Jim Carrey had lost it a little bit. Poor, rich celebrity, dealt a bad hand and unable to contend with problems that can't be solved with money.
On "Kidding", which just wrapped up its first season on Sunday, Carrey plays Jeff Pickles, a Mr. Rogers-like character on a children's TV show. The pilot takes place a year after one of Mr. Pickles's identical twin boys (Cole Allen) is killed in a car accident. Mr. Pickles can't seem to deal with the loss head-on and so it manifests in violent ways.
This is Carrey's first acting credit since 2016, which technically means he probably hadn't acted since 2015 - the time of his personal life tragedy. It's impossible that the creators of the show didn't take the similarities into consideration. It's impossible that they didn't intend for Mr. Pickles's struggles to inform and be informed by Jim Carrey's real life struggles. The role is so perfect for a celebrity looking to comment on his own celebrity through the medium of acting. It's perfect for Jim Carrey to use Mr. Pickles's gentle demeanor with the children who watch his show as a metaphor for what's good in his life and needs to be protected; juxtaposed with the violent outbursts he has over the course of the show as a demonstration for what happens when that's all you see; juxtaposed with the very real sentiments he expresses about love, loss, loneliness, mistakes, and the failure of our loved ones to protect us from harm, given over in several very literal monologues on "Kidding." There were very few times watching "Kidding" that I remembered Carrey as a celebrity and not as Mr. Pickles, yet his history imbues the messages he preaches with sublime duality.
Similarly, Lady Gaga was very clearly cast in "A Star Is Born" because she is Lady Gaga. Certainly this makes sense, seeing as the film is centered on the singing and songwriting ability of her character, Ally. While Ally and Stefani Germanotta have different lives insofar as Ally is from California and Gaga is from New York, watching the film I couldn't forget that I was watching Lady Gaga Without Makeup; Lady Gaga In Orange Wig; Lady Gaga In Gold Lamé Flamenco Dress (even though she'd never wear that in real life).
Much has been made of Bradley Cooper's transformation for his role as Jackson Maine: how he developed his voice, aged his appearance, and got a tan. I was taken in by his performance. Cooper is an incredible actor. (Side point: he should not have starred in his directorial debut, there was way too much of his face taking up the screen.) It is no accident that the casting of Lady Gaga and the stories about her first duet together with Cooper and how he mauled her face with a makeup wipe is what dominated the media narrative. I wouldn't be so cynical as to call this stunt casting, but Cooper hand picked Lady Gaga to star opposite him, and that is what he got.
The question, as always, is whether the decision serves the story. Is "Kidding" better because Jim Carrey suffered in a similar vein to his character? Are the unique vocals displayed in "A Star Is Born" worth a lesser quality of acting? On a more simplistic level, did the viewer benefit from the gamble or did it become a distraction to the detriment of the final product? By this point of my virtuous rant, you should have my answers already.
Thoughts with Alisa
Current writing on pop culture. Also known as my post-graduate school writing motivation.